MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — First lady Michelle Obama stumped for Democrats in Iowa and Minnesota Tuesday, calling on the young and minority voters who powered her husband's rise to the presidency to help the party avoid a potentially bruising midterm election.
Mrs. Obama first urged college students and supporters at the University of Iowa to vote early and volunteer for Bruce Braley, who is in a tight Senate race against Republican Joni Ernst. She delivered a similar rallying cry to a mostly black crowd later Tuesday at a high school in Minneapolis, where Sen. Al Franken and fellow Democrat Gov. Mark Dayton are counting on turnout from those groups.
Tuesday's stop in Iowa City was Mrs. Obama's second trip to this month to shore up support for Braley, whose win may be crucial to Democrats' maintaining control of the Senate.
Braley, a four-term congressman, had once been a favorite to win the seat held for 30 years by retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, one of his mentors. Now he's running even with Ernst, a first-term state senator and commander in the Iowa National Guard.
Mrs. Obama said it would be up to younger voters to "step up" and help deliver the state for Braley, as they did for her husband, Barack Obama, during his presidential campaigns of 2008 and 2012.
"For just three hours of your time, you will get six years of an outstanding senator who will carry on Tom Harkin's legacy," Mrs. Obama said. "If we all keep stepping up and bringing others along with us, I know we can elect Bruce Braley as the next senator from Iowa."
She said students should take anyone they know to the polls with them, joking, "Bring the folks you met at the party last weekend!"
In Minnesota, Franken and Dayton have leads in public polling over their GOP challengers. The first lady's visit was just the most recent in a parade of Democratic stars — including former President Bill Clinton and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren — who have stumped for the two candidates, all stressing the importance of voting in the midterm election.
Republicans in both states used Mrs. Obama's visits to tie Democratic candidates to the president and his waning approval ratings. The campaign of Mike McFadden, Franken's Republican challenger, called Tuesday "a reminder that President Obama's policies are on Minnesota ballots this fall in the form of Al Franken."
On both stops, the first lady defended her husband's record. In Minneapolis, she reminded voters of "the mess he'd been handed" when he took office in 2009. In Iowa City, she said he helped turn around a struggling economy, expanded financial aid for students and signed health care reform that allows people to stay on their parents' insurance until age 26.
Speaking to the cheering crowd of more than 2,000 in Minneapolis, the first lady said voters need to re-elect Democrats such as Dayton and Franken to continue on that path. She said Republicans are counting on diminished turnout of young and minority voters — like in the 2010 midterms that were disastrous for Democrats — to take back the Senate and governor's offices.
"People were shocked when Barack won because they were counting on folks like us to stay home," Mrs. Obama said. "It's up to us to get out and vote. Only we can prove them wrong."
Foley reported from Iowa City, Iowa.